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Updated Coaching Notebook

If you remember, I originally had my planner set-up to also hold my coaching notes. While the system was working out okay, for a lot of reasons, I wasn’t really diggin’ it. So I took some time to rework it. 

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Customized Covers Available at my Etsy Shop

The first thing I needed was more space, since I can be working with up to eight coachees at a time. I also have learned that I prefer to use both my computer and paper when taking notes in an observation, as it allows for more flexibility. So my system needed a good amount of note taking paper, but I didn’t want coaching notes for different teachers all muddled together for me to later sort through. I also don’t totally like having separate notebooks or legal pads for different teachers. After assessing these needs and a few more, my decision was to use an Arc Notebook set-up for coaching notes only. I still have my planner, but it now lives in it’s own notebook.

To avoid the muddling through notes problem, I created a different tab for each teacher.

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I inserted a coaching log behind each teacher tab, which I put on the left side of the notebook. I prefer this set-up, as it allows me to easily access notes from a debrief to add to the coaching log without doing too much page flipping. Also, when I go into a debrief, next steps from our last conversation are up front and center for me to see.

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Click Here to Download Coaching Log

I print out my typed up notes before going into a debrief and then handwrite additional notes from there. I used to type notes during a debrief, but wondered if it would help my coaching conversations feel more personal if I did away with the computer screen barrier. So far I think I made a good decision.

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Oh, and I put together this planning tool to help me think through my coaching conversations. It’s essentially a lesson plan for coaches.

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Based on thinking from the EL Network

Click Here to Download

I keep a copy of this handy in the reference section of my notebook.

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This Coaching Sentence Stems reference sheet (by Elena Aguilar) has been another good addition to this section. You can use it when planning for or even during coaching conversations.

 

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Note taking systems for coaches are obviously very personal. What works for me might not work for you. When developing/tweaking your own, I think the most important components to consider include:

  • ease of use
  • flexibility
  • keeps you organized
  • tracks progress
  • you like using it!

Check off those pieces and you’re good to go!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

 

 

10 Great Gifts for Educators

‘Tis the season! We’re in the midst of Secret Santa and while still hard at work coaching, my thoughts have been doing some drifting to cool gift ideas for teachers/coaches/principals/ assistants…you know, all members of the great group of folks who work in different ways to support kids.

Here are a few ideas I put together…

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1. Timbuk2 Tartine Tote Bag

Every educator needs a good bag…and I’ve been drooling over this one. It has an interior laptop pocket, interior and exterior organization pockets, and an interior water bottle pocket. Love that. You can even customize the colors and material. Maybe it could be an end of the year, you’ve been good, present to yourself? {wink, wink}

2. The Write Stuff Note Cards

There’s nothing like a good old, handwritten, I appreciate you note card to give as a gift. These Write Stuff cards seem like they were designed especially for educators and…they’re free! All you have to do is download, print, and fold. Boom!

3. Dot Grid Journal

Planning and reflecting is a big part of what we do, and this journal is a great place to make that happen. This journal is an absolute fave of mine…perfect size, geometric dot matrix, and paper as smooth as butter.

4. Bottle of Wine

Just sayin’…my Secret Santa gave me a bottle of wine one year and I was psyched! A simple, yet thoughtful gift, sure to be put to good use.

5. YAY! Teacher Magnets

What’s your YAY!? Whatever it is, YAY! has got your back. These magnets are super fun to give as gifts.

6. Thermos Vacuum Insulated Travel Tumbler

Did you know that us educators are among the top 15 heaviest coffee drinkers? {and the most likely to add flavor to our coffee} Well then, we certainly need a good travel mug…one that’s well designed, doesn’t leak, and keeps our coffee pipin’ hot throughout the morning. I searched many, long years for a travel mug that meets all three of these qualifications until I finally found this beauty. Pass it along.

7. Uno Insulated Lunch Tote for One

I think cool lunch boxes are really neat. They make you feel happier when you pack your lunch at night and add some extra excitement to your lunch break. I haven’t tried this one out personally, but if I were to ask Santa for a new lunch box, I think this is the one I would ask for. It has a built in silverware holder! It doesn’t really get better than that.

8. Fun Pens 

Writing with fun pens is much more interesting than using a standard #2 or the boring pens school provides. The Flair Pens by Paper Mate are definitely fun and if you pair a set of these with a pad of colorful sticky notes, you’ve got yourself a great gift!

9. Heavy Duty Three Hole Punch

Huh? A three hole punch? Yes! A three hole punch! My dad got this for me one year for Christmas, and while at first I kind of thought it was an odd gift, after taking it to school I thought it was pretty much the best gift ever.

10. Klean Kanteen Water Bottle

Hydration is important. But it can be annoying when you have to deal with unscrewing and rescrewing the lid to some water bottles every time you want to get a drink. None of that with this water bottle! Hydration to go in a stainless steel, toxin free water bottle that comes in all kinds of fun colors.

Well there you have it. My gift giving {or getting} guide for educators. Am I missing any really good ideas?

If so, please share!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

My Coaching Office

I don’t know about you guys, but I just love love {yes two loves, not a typo} peeking inside the work spaces of other coaches and teachers. Educators have some seriously creative super powers when it comes to organizing and decorating and there’s so many good ideas we can steal from each other! Since it’s nearly November, I thought it was high time for me to give you a peek inside my own coaching work space. Take a look around and if there are any ideas that catch your eye, feel free to steal away!

To start, you’ll likely notice I’m no longer in my PD Pad. Our school recently received a remodel, so I now have an office to work in, which makes me feel pretty official. There’s a retractable wall just to the right of the round table which we slide back every Thursday for PD to create a large gathering space for teachers.

I use the larger table when I’m meeting with teams of teachers and the round table for smaller gatherings.

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I set up the desk on the left as a space for our school designer to work when she visits on Mondays and Thursdays.

up-close-at-desksA few years ago I made the decision to do away with my big, bulky file cabinet. After some ruthless purging, I was able to downscale to a tidy little file box that I tuck away behind my bag. I’m pretty discriminating when deciding what paper documents to keep. The large majority of my files I now store electronically.

file-box-with-textMy desk is fairly small so there isn’t space to stack a bunch of unnecessary stuff. I try to keep it as clutter free as I can.

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I just made this fun desktop wallpaper. If you like it too, download it here.

HustleAnything that needs to be processed goes into my inbox. At the end of each day I process away.

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To the right of my desk I set up a teacher resource book area.

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Rafe Esquith is one of my favorite educators and I love his motto, “Be nice, Work hard.”

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Feel free to steal this download!

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Here’s a view from the back of my office.

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These are our five staff habits. They’re nice to have displayed in a location that I can easily reference.

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Rather than going with the offer of standard Staples bookshelves, I chose to hunt down a more stylish option. I went with the Ikea Expedit shelving unit in grey and worked in a mix of open and closed storage.

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I added labels to the baskets so I can quickly find what I’m looking for.

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And of course my space wouldn’t be complete without a coffee station. I splurged this year and bought a Nespresso machine and I love it! Everyday I look forward to my 3:00 espresso break. Mmmm…coffee…

coffee-stand

Well there you have it! What do you think?!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

Meeting Tips and Tools

Phew! I feel like I blinked and it was suddenly September. It has been one busy start to the school year. If I gave you a copy of my calendar for this past month and asked you to look for trends, I’d bet you would quickly find one word popping up all over the place…meeting. PD planning meetings, coaching meetings, team meetings…meetings, meetings, meetings. No doubt about it, the beginning of the year is prime meeting time. But as coaches, the reality is that beginning of the school year or not, meetings are just a part of what we do. So if that’s the deal, then let’s make sure we do those meetings well. To start, I’ll share three of my top tips for effectively facilitating a meeting then a few tools to support you as a facilitator or meeting participant.

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Clarify Norms

NORMS

Setting or clarifying norms for collaborative work is an important first step in supporting teams who will work together for a period of time. If you’re supporting grade level team meetings or just starting off a new coaching cycle, this would be a great place to start. When setting norms a few things to think about include logistics, timeliness, equal participation, and the decision making process. Create your meeting norms together and come back to them frequently.

Create an Agenda

AgendaAgenda, agenda, agenda! This is your lesson plan for the meeting. Just like you wouldn’t want a teacher to head into a lesson without a plan, you don’t want to head into a meeting without an agenda. Include clear outcomes, any materials needed, topics of discussion, and times attached to topics. Post the agenda for others to see and review it at the start of the meeting so everyone knows where they’re headed. Provide the opportunity for meeting members to ask questions or add in topics they would like to be addressed. Even if I’m only meeting with one other teacher, I always have an agenda.

Identify Next Steps

Next-Steps

Never let the meeting come to a close before identifying next steps. Who will be responsible for what and by when? You can email these next steps and meeting notes to team members to support accountability.

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Here is a note taking template created in Word so you can type directly into it if your prefer taking notes on your computer:

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Click Here to Download

If you prefer taking notes by hand, here is a PDF printable you can print in color or black and white and pop into your notebook:

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Click Here to Download

Here is a Word doc template you can use to create your agenda:

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Click Here to Download 

Lastly, a little candy and/or coffee never hurts the spirit of any meeting! Wink, wink.

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I hope you find these tips and tools helpful. Thanks to blog reader Anna for sharing her thoughts on putting together a meeting note-taking sheet. If you ever have thoughts on coaching resources/tools that would be helpful for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know! I’ll try to work it into a future post.

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

Office in a Bag

As coaches, we’re always on the go. With an observation here and a planning meeting there, whose to say where we’ll be during any given day. When I began coaching I quickly figured out that I would need some kind of “office in a bag” so that I would always be prepared for wherever my day might take me. My first attempt at this was a big, bulky shoulder bag that I had previously used for hiking and traveling. It wasn’t bad really, but it wasn’t great either. It wasn’t organized in any useful way and it needed a good purge.

Sometimes you just need a little encouragement from seeing what others are doing to get going yourself, and that is just what Jen over at iheartorganizing gave me a few weeks ago when I read one of her posts. As I read how she organized her bag for blogging I thought, “I can do that for coaching!” Let’s take a look inside.

The first coaching essential you’ll find is my coaching planner.

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And here I have my much needed working folders. I picked up a great tip from David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.” In his book he shares that he carries an “inbox” folder in his briefcase. He explains that it’s just as important to have a mobile inbox as a stationary inbox. Brilliant! Who needs a mobile inbox more than coaches? No more crumpled up papers floating around in my bag. They will now all have a temporary, but intentional home. I use my “Inbox” folder for important papers that I know I need to keep and will file or process them as soon as I get back to my desk. My “Other Work” folder is used for any other papers I may need, but won’t keep. For example, papers needed for a planning or debrief session that day or copies that need to be made.

Teacher-Work-Folders

In Jen’s post she shares how she uses a small cosmetics pouch from Target to carry around smaller odds and ends. Love it! I immediately went to Target and snagged one myself. Next to it you’ll see my treasured Dot Grid Journal which serves as my space to write out thoughts and ideas connected to coaching.

Pouch-and-NotesOpen-Pouch2

In the first pouch you’ll find a few freshen-up items. I can’t live without coffee in the morning, but I’m also a little scared of coffee breath, hence the mouthwash. Also, never underestimate the value of a mini stain stick!

Inside-Office-Pouch

In the second pouch I have a few computer essentials such as a wireless mouse and a traveling mouse pad {that also serves as a screen cleaner, bonus!}. I don’t always use these, but they sure are nice to have on the occasions when I’m working on my computer for awhile.

Mouse-Pad

When I have a few free minutes at lunch or in between coaching sessions, I like being able to pull out one of my favorite education magazines.

Teacher-Magazines

One thing I’m pretty well known for {and made fun of for} is my use of screen cleaner.  I really, really don’t like having a dirty computer screen or keyboard so this handy spray and wipe gets a special spot in the side pocket of my bag. And my laptop sleeve is a must. Keeps my computer from scratches and wear and tear.

Computer-Cleaner

I also place my chapstick, lotion, and a pen in an easily accessible pocket on the side of my bag next to my water bottle.

Makeup

Although I don’t carry it with me throughout the day, I can also fit my clutch in my bag.

Clutch

Tada! Here it is all put together. It’s not too big and bulky, yet holds everything I need.

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Do you have an office in a bag? What’s it like?!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

My 2013-2014 Instructional Coaching Planner

Hey coaches! You didn’t think I would forget about us and our planning needs did you? No way. Although our planning style may be a bit different than classroom teachers, we need a good planning system in place just as much!

So let’s discuss. Last year, I went the all digital route. I used iCal for monthly, weekly, and daily planning. Google docs for recording and storing information gathered in observations and debriefs with teachers. And Evernote for note taking during meetings.

While there are lots of things to love about digital planning and organizing, I must admit I am a paper and pen kinda gal at heart. And this year I felt the need to show some more love to this side of myself.

So I did what I love to do and created a just-right coaching planner that has made my paper and pen heart sing with happiness!

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Along with my Discbound Notebook, here are the materials I used to put it together.

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My first task was to figure out how I wanted to set-up my Calendar section. Initially I thought I would use a two-page paper calendar, similar to the one I created for the Teacher Planner and build from there. However, as I thought about all of the planning and coaching meetings I have scheduled in a typical day/month, I knew there was no way the paper only calendar would cut it. So I called on my trusty friend iCal to lend a helping hand. The plan is to print my monthly calendar each month, grab some washi tape, and adhere it to the front of the divider right behind my Calendar section. Like this:

Month

This way I’ll be able to easily refer to my monthly calendar when I’m on-the-go or doing my daily planning without having to pull up my computer or phone. If any additional meetings or events come up, I can fill them in by hand or if things get really crazy, add them to iCal and reprint.

OK, on to daily planning! This is really where the rubber meets the road so you’ve got to do it right. Because I have so much going on in a typical day, I knew I needed a daily planning sheet that would help me manage my important To-Dos and scheduled meetings.

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 Visit my Shop

I plan for the next day the night before so I’m ready to dive right in.  I begin by identifying my top three priorities for the day in the “Eat that Frog” section. Then I get any other To-Dos off my mind by jotting them down in the section below that. Next I write in my agenda or schedule, balancing my time against my To-Dos.

As I work, I’ll jot down any notes or thoughts that come up in the “Thought Catcher” section. Written down, these thoughts won’t distract me from my plan, but they won’t be forgotten either. At the end of the day, I’ll review these caught thoughts along with any other To-Dos that weren’t attended to and use this information along with my monthly calendar to plan my next day.

Are you wondering what the heck “Eat that Frog” means? I picked it up from reading Brian Tracy’s book, Eat that Frog. If you’re interested in time management strategies at all, you should check it out. The idea comes from a Mark Twain quote: “If you eat a frog first thing in the morning that will probably be the worst thing you do all day.” Basically, take care of your most important and/or procrastination worthy tasks first!

One other tool I use to map out my week is my Peek at the Week sheet. I updated the one I shared in an earlier post to better match my daily planning sheets. You can download it free here!

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I adjusted the size a bit and trimmed it, so that I could stick it to the back of my calendar tab for easy reference.  I’m always checking to make sure that my priorities for the week match my daily plans!

Peek-at-the-Week

I’ve been playing around with my planning sheets a bit this summer and I’m psyched because I think they’re going to be so perfect for the school year. Woop Woop!

After I had my calendar section all figured out it was time to decide what other sections I would add to my planner. I decided to go with Coaching, Notes, Blog, and Personal.

Sections

Within my coaching section, I have tabs labeled Observation, Debrief, and Reference.

Coaching-Sections

I’ll store short term notes and reference material within these sections. For longer term storage of observation and debrief notes with coachees, I’ll use file folders and a PD Google Site which I’m going to work on creating next week. I’ll share more on this system once I have it all put together.

I decided I needed a separate Notes section for planning meetings and just to scribble out my own thoughts when I’m working on different projects. I use Levenger’s Dot Grid paper which is my favorite paper ever.

Because my school life feeds the work I do on my blog, it needed it’s own section to keep all my post ideas in order.

In my Personal section, I have my Meal Plan for the week along with a few other documents that help keep me together.

If you would like to use my Any-Day Planner to put together a coaching planner for yourself, please visit my Etsy shop. It includes a Customized Planner Cover which you can have laminated like I did or bind together with your planning pages to make a planner for the year!

If you’re someone who could do without all the daily planning action and are content with a weekly planning spread instead, then this weekly planner may better meet your needs.

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Weekly_Planning

So tell me, what’s your coaching planning system? I would LOVE to hear!

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

DIY Teacher Planner/Binder

Something you may not {or may} know about me, is that I am obsessed with planners. I love them. I love creating them and using them to help manage all the daily madness. As educators a well organized planner is an essential, must-have for our line of work.

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When it comes to choosing your planner for the year, you could use the standard teacher planner that gets passed out every year at school, but those are usually pretty darn boring if you ask me. So the solution for me has always been to create my own.

As a fun summer project, I worked on creating a planner for teachers and another planner for coaches to support your DIY Planner style. They have all the planner essentials you need, yet leave you with room to build out from there. You can find these different Teacher Planners in my shop.

Or if you’re interested in a weekly calendar that’s already set up and ready to go, definitely check out The Time & ToDo Planner.

Alright, now let’s take a look at how you might set yours up.

For my planner I chose to use a Discbound notebook, which seem to be all the rage these days and for good reason! They’re sleek and sophisticated, highly customizable, fold neatly in half, and lay flat when open. Love it! You can check out the Circa notebook system by Levenger, or the Arc notebook is a slightly less expensive option yet just as good.

On the inside I added a pad of gotta-have sticky notes, some page tabs, and a few paper clips. I also had my cover laminated to spice it up a bit!

The Teaching Planning Kit has three different cover options for you to choose from.

 

I used white tab dividers, some washi tape, and my label maker to create sections for “Calendar” and “Lesson Plans”. Two essential sections for every teacher!

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Begin your calendar section with a Year at a Glance spread. Use it to note important dates for the year, goals, and/or student birthdays.

Behind the Year at a Glance, let your two-page Monthly Calendar spreads for the year begin. These August 2016-July 20147 calendar pages will serve as your Comprehensive Calendar and it is going to be one of your most important tools in your Teacher Planner. A two-page spread is a must, since this is where you will record all of your hard deadlines, events, and meetings for both your school and home life. Yes, both! If you value getting a pizza and watching The Bachelor on Monday night, you’ve got to block that time off and work around it the best you can. Not that I watch The Bachelor or anything…

Behind each month are two lined pages for notes.

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In the section for your lesson plans, I created a weekly lesson plan template you can use to get all your big ideas down. There are 5 planning spreads (print as many as you need!) in each Teacher Planner, designed to be printed front-back, so you can either print for the year, or a month at a time. It’s designed to be flexible!

52 Weekly Planning Spreads in PDF

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Lastly, I used some sticker paper to make a label for the folder in the back. This “Inbox” is where I’ll collect any loose odds and ends that come my way.

inbox

Now that you’ve got the essentials taken care of, the rest of the planner is up to you. You might add a section for grades, meetings, general reference, whatever you need!

A few notes on printing the Weekly Lesson Plans in your Planning Kit or Teacher Planner. For easier viewing and printing, I recommend using Adobe Reader which you can download for free here. You can also use Preview if you have a Mac.

Once you open the Planner PDF in Adobe you should see a screen that looks similar to this:

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The weekly lesson plans are set-up for simple duplex/two sided printing. If you have a duplex printer, you’re good to go. If not, no worries. I don’t either, so on my printer I first printed the “odd pages” by adjusting the “Subset” selection in the print box. The paper I used for printing is standard letter size, 8 1/2″ x 11, 98 bright and 32 lb. from Staples.

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After the odd pages were printed I flipped them over, inserted them back into the printer, and changed the “Subset” selection to “Even pages only.” Now, here’s what you need to make sure to do: print out a few test pages BEFORE printing out the entire document!  Kind of like the old adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” Or you can take a shortcut and just head to Staples.

OR don’t forget about your Time & ToDo Planner option either. You’ll save on the cost of printing, and be ready to go.

Alrighty then, let’s get this Planner party started! Here’s to an organized and awesome school year.

Happy Planning!

ms-houser

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Cleaned Up Computer Files

Throughout the school year we accumulate lots and lots of electronic files of all kinds. All of these files are stored somewhere on your computer, but where? When you go to look for an important document does it take you 5 seconds or 5 annoying minutes to find it? Or worse, maybe you can’t find it at all and are forced with having to recreate it or hunt it down elsewhere…argh! A cluttered desktop and unorganized computer files can really slow you down and we coaches/teachers do not have time to waste.

If your docs could also benefit from some tidying, a few hours dedicated to tackling this project might really pay off in the happy and effective coach/teacher factor. Take a look at how I went from “Boo” to “Woo Hoo!”

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For Customized Desktop Wallpaper of your own, click here!

 

STEP_1

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Subfolders_and_Naming_Sign

As you create your subfolders and continue to sort, notice how you’ve been naming your files. If you haven’t been using dates as part of your naming system, you might consider beginning to do so.  Here’s an article that helps explain why.

Subfolders-and-Naming-Visual

 

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Here’s the fun part! Now that you’ve done all that sorting and purging, choose an inspiring desktop wallpaper that will help prevent future clutter.

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There are lots of different ways to keep your computer files organized. Any tips or tricks to share?

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser

May Planning Calendar

Most if not all of us coaches and teachers have some type of planning system to help us stay organized and on top of scheduled obligations and to-dos. Some of us prefer an online calendar system such as iCal or Outlook, while others prefer a paper based system…or maybe you’re someone who has uses for both! However you choose to organize and plan your time, a monthly planning calendar serves as the foundation for mapping out how to make the best use of your time during the week and from day to day.

I’ve been working on putting together a coaching binder of my own and thought I would share two versions of a monthly calendar I’ve created.  The first is a one page monthly calendar and the second is a two page outlook if you prefer more space.  Hopefully you can make use of them to enhance your personal planning system!

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 11.30.59 AMClick to Download

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Click to Download

Thanks for reading,

ms-houser